Please take this two-part quiz that may help you cover your assets in 2017.
What do (all too many) politicians have in common with Jimmy or Rita, the pet goldfish you may have had as a kid?
What’s the difference between a government shutdown and a furlough, if any?
Answer to question 1: A very short memory and attention span. Which can be dangerous to your financial health.
Answer to question 2: Furloughs cost feds money. Shutdowns, while sometimes stressful, amount to enforced paid vacations for all concerned.
Why insult goldfish by comparing them to members of Congress? Because it’s almost April, and this year that means another government shutdown may happen. Or a round of furloughs. Or both. Or neither.
The last governmentwide shutdown — when non-emergency workers were told to stay home — was in October 2013. It lasted for 16 days. And although everybody eventually got paid, tens of thousands of workers who live paycheck-to-paycheck were stressed out big time. FEEA, the feds-helping-feds charity, literally ran out of money helping people make their rent or mortgage, their utilities payments or just to eat. Most people, at least according to much of the media, blamed the House GOP for first forcing people to stay home, then paying them for it.
Earlier that year — 2013 was a lulu — tens of thousands of federal workers in selected agencies were furloughed, as opposed to being locked out of work. The furloughs were triggered by the sequestration strategy, a poison pill cooked up by the Obama administration that Congress swallowed whole. The White House denied it, but the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, traced its origins.
Sequestration — maybe people had to look up the definition, some who should have didn’t bother — called for something like $85 billion in cuts. The furloughs ranged from a few days in some agencies to up to 11 days in others. For a journey back in time, click here.
The problem, for the taxpayers, was the disruption and shutdowns caused by both. And the fact that the shutdown — a much bigger event that impacted more civil servants and taxpayers — didn’t save a nickel and probably cost millions of dollars.
The good news is that the governmentwide shutdown deadline is several weeks away. In many companies and businesses (especially those that print, then collect, currency) that should be enough time. Alas, here we are dealing with the Congress and White House, which, while different from 2013, still like their time-outs, their long weekends and playing chicken with other people’s lives.